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Tue, 11.23.1926

R.L. Burnside, a Magnolia blues man

R. L. Burnside

R.L. Burnside was born on this date in 1926. He was an African American blues musician.

From Oxford, MS, he began playing music at age 16, learning from such Delta Blues men, as Mississippi Fred McDowell and Muddy Waters. Burnside started out on the harmonica but soon switched to the guitar. As a child, his family moved to Holly Springs, MS, where he has remained ever since. R.L. began singing and playing the blues in the 1950s at local jukes, dances, and parties. He worked on farms or as a fisherman most of the time.

He traveled through the Delta working and playing the blues and returned to his home in 1959 to settle down and raise a very large family. In 1967, blues researcher George Mitchell recorded Burnside and the songs eventually wound up on the Arhoolie label compilation album. This allowed R.L. to tour Europe in 1971 for the first time. He recorded albums for Europe-based labels Swingmaster, Arion, and Vogue.

He continued on the road sporadically through the 1980s and in 1992, he appeared in the documentary "Deep Blues." This exposed him to a new audience with the release of the soundtrack. He then released the album "Bad Luck City" in 1993. The band R.L. worked with included most of his family. All of Burnside's eight sons play in the band called the "Sound Machine." Burnside recently recorded two albums for the Fat Possum label called "Too Bad Jim" and "The Wizard."

His down-home country flavor of blues with loud guitar amplification created a unique raw sound that new generations of blues-rock lovers have discovered. Burnside was a gifted musician, songwriter, and storyteller who at his best just played his guitar and used a microphone, talking and playing, and giving the audience a real taste of old time blues.

Equally he was the consummate guitarist, delivering hot electric blues with the R.L. Burnside's signature. He was also influenced by the country styles of Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, and John Lee Hooker. R.L. Burnside died on September 2, 2005.

Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York
ISBN 1-55859-271-7

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